What is the virtue of pacifism

What actually is pacifism?

To clarify a political term

It makes sense from time to time to reflect on political positions or to clarify political terms. Can the term pacifism mean anything to us today?

The term

The word pacifism was first used in 1901 by E. Arnaud in the daily newspaper Indépendance Belge. The supporters of the peace movement should be designated as pacifists, who advocate peaceful, interstate conflict resolution with individual and collective means, with the aim of a community of nations and states based on law.
Previous sub-goals of the peace movement such as international arbitration, disarmament, the union of the nations of Europe and the world, the international congress, etc. were also summarized under this term.
The word pacifism was also of practical use in several languages; The term was first used internationally at the 10th World Peace Congress in Glasgow in 1901. In terms of the history of ideas, this term fits into the bourgeois-liberal emancipation movements at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century.
The more radical understanding of pacifism is defined by the Canadian historian Peter Brock for the Anglo-American language area:
Pacifism is the movement "that emerged in our century and combined the advocacy of personal non-participation in any kind of war or violent revolution with an effort to find nonviolent ways of resolving conflicts"
In principle, however, one cannot assume a fixed terminology for pacifism, but this term is subject to a process of change in terms of content. Until the beginning of the 20s the pacifism (term) was relatively clear and meant "the description of those organizationally determined peace models of the bourgeois peace movement, which is common outside the English-speaking area ..." In addition, there was anti-militarism, which is assigned to the labor movement with an anti-capitalist orientation. Both terms lose their uniqueness in the 1920s! There are combinations of terms such as: left pacifism, young pacifism, active pacifism, revolutionary pacifism, anarcho-pacifism, anti-militarist pacifism, etc.
The terms pacifism and peace movement are often used as synonyms today. In general, the guiding principle of pacifism today is the rejection of war and violence and the search for non-violent solutions to interstate conflicts and overcoming the causes of war in society

The historical development of pacifism

The first peace societies came into being in 1815. In the USA there were supporters of liberal and enlightened unitarianism and active in the anti-slavery movement. The Christian message of peace had meaning. In Great Britain the Quakers ("Society of Friends") were particularly active.
The spectrum of peace societies expanded through the influence of the free trade movement. Religious justifications found additions to the ideal of humanity or the idea of ​​solidarity among peoples.
Topics such as the unification of Europe (1849), the introduction of arbitration and the abolition of the standing armies were on the agendas of the peace congresses.
In 1889 the first World Peace Congress and the first conference of the "Interparliamentary Union" (IPU) met in Paris. The German Peace Society (DFG) was founded in Berlin in 1892.
Before the First World War, pacifism was state-political, parliamentary-oriented, organized congresses and also had an effect through publication activities.
The pre-war pacifists in the German Peace Society (Ludwig Quidde and Alfred Hermann Fried) were largely oriented towards international law and a morally based international legal concept that is now an often recognized component of official diplomacy policy of states.
In the movement against World War I, individual and social forms of resistance are discussed and practiced. Conscientious objection and the (general) strike against the war are attracting increasing attention. World War I and the international discussions expanded and radicalized the concept of pacifism.
Forms of resistance and refusal of war have already been introduced and discussed by anarchists at conferences of the international labor movement, the Second International (1891 and 1893). The anarchist demands for conscientious objection and strikes against the war were still a minority position in the labor movement at that time (not to be found in pacifist associations!). With Domela Nieuvenhuis the anarcho-pacifist current in anarchism was clearly formulated for the first time. Links and additions exist between anarcho-pacifism and anarcho-syndicalism. In the tradition of Nieuvenhuis, Albert de Jong and Bart de Ligt worked in national and international anarcho-syndicalist and pacifist associations (especially the War Resisters' International, WRI). Bart de Ligt's book "The Conquest of Violence" had a particular effect in WRI discussions on passive resistance to war. In the 1930s, this book convinced many pacifists in the Anglo-American region who, after reading this, turned to the anarchist positions.
Anarcho-syndicalism discussed the idea of ​​responsible manufacturing. Rudolf Rocker emphasized at the Reich Conference of Armaments Workers in Erfurt in 1919 that peace would not come through peace congresses, but only through the direct action of the workers themselves by refusing to produce and transport arms. The members of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Free Workers' Union of Germany (F.A.U.D.) were later categorically imposed the duty to "reject and refuse the manufacture of any war material in principle"
The anarcho-syndicalists criticized the bourgeois pacifists: "Whoever wants to reform and preserve the state must accept militarism. Whoever wants militarism must not complain about the atrocities of war."
Conscientious objection was unknown to the bourgeois-pacifist associations until the First World War and, after the successes of the mass conscientious objection during the First World War, especially in Great Britain, did not become an integral part of pacifism until much later. The resistance to the war found international organizational expression in the War Resister 'Internationale (WRI, 1921)
In the historical development, many anarchists influenced pacifism, but saw themselves more as anti-militarists. Some anarchists are attracted to "the type of pacifism advocated by Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi, and to the use of nonviolence as a method of direct action. Also, many anarchists have participated, and sometimes have, in anti-war movements had a significant influence on them. " The emergence of pacifist anarchism (anarcho-pacifism) can be ascertained before and during the Second World War in the Netherlands, Great Britain and the USA.
Well-known anarchists who were involved in the pacifist movement included Gustav Landauer (1870-1919) and Ernst Friedrich (1894-1967) in Germany, Bart de Ligt (1883-1938) in the Netherlands and Pierre Ramus (1882-1942) in Austria ), in the USA Benjamin Tucker (1854-1939), Emma Goldmann (1869-1940). Mahatma Gandhi also worked in the anarchist movement as a living model for a "pacifist anti-industrialism" in which ecological, industry-critical and life-reform concerns were formulated.
Non-violent methods of action were discussed in the Netherlands in 1938 under the term "pacifist people's defense" in order to take action against the military occupation of fascist Germany. The considerations at that time correspond to today's theory of social defense.
The term pacifism was often used in defamatory polemics by opponents. Conservative and nationalist ideology becomes clear in Meyer's lexicon of 1940: Pacifism ... "fundamental opposition to war, especially as a result of international cooperation, easily leads to treason." ... Pacifists "... were mostly traitors in Germany" ... "The pacifist is cowardly" and "strives for so-called justice" ... As early as 1932, the first pacifist magazines were banned in Germany. Pacifists were subjected to severe persecution under the rule of National Socialism.
Left ideology called pacifism passivism, which is powerless as a bourgeois social reform to overcome the contradictions, contradictions and evils of capitalism and thus the war.
On the other hand, Kurt Hiller, who is oriented towards Friedrich Nietzsche, of the group of Revolutionary Pacifists, argues vehemently: "Pacifism does not mean peacefulness. Anyone who thinks that the pacifist must, according to his definition, be a peaceful, meek, thoroughly indulgent, tolerant person, never opposing himself rebellious, aggressive even angry, rather humble creature dripping with the honey of unity and all the ointments of unconditional philanthropy, he has thoroughly misunderstood pacifism. Pacifism does not denote a lamb attitude and no prayer virtue, but the fighting movement for an idea. For which idea? Not for them Idea that fights cease on earth between people and groups of people, but for the idea that wars cease on earth; war is a form of struggle, is a bloody body fight of the masses for life and death, of the masses of inwardly many uninvolved people, i.e. innocent in the death of the hunted - and this e form of human conflict, because it is an inhuman one, pacifism wants to get rid of the world. " (1922)
During World War II, the international political significance of pacifism was low, because free communication was not possible. In the individual countries, resistance to war was organized by pacifists according to the respective possibilities and military service was refused individually. The states persecuted the conscientious objectors with harsh prison sentences up to - especially in Germany - the death penalty.
After the Second World War, the civil rights movement in the USA (including Martin Luther King), the anti-nuclear movement (in England: CND, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) and the liberation movements in the Third World (especially Gandhi in India) gave new pacifism to pacifism Impulses.

Pacifism of the German present

During the first years after World War II there was a broad rejection of war in Germany, e.g. clearly formulated in the first constitutions of the German states. Pacifist demands such as the outlawing of war and the right to conscientious objection were enshrined in the first state constitutions. The (limited) right to conscientious objection later also became part of the Basic Law of the FRG. The GDR also tried to politically co-opt pacifism (especially the liberal-bourgeois variant) by stating that there were "close points of contact between the foreign policy of the socialist states aimed at peaceful coexistence and the ideas and demands of the world peace movement and the views of representatives of the Pacifism "would exist.
The remilitarization of Germany began as early as the early 1950s: the consolidation of the two German states also had the logic of militarization, the creation of armies, the reintroduction of conscription, the integration of the FRG into the Western military alliance (NATO), which also resulted the Eastern Military Alliance (WVO) had. The nuclear arms race began.
The pacifists in West Germany were active against remilitarization (e.g. "Without Us" movement). In the anti-atomic movement ("fight against atomic death") it was (only) against atomic armament; it was customary at first to call for the "civil use of atomic energy". The term nuclear pacifism was born. The broad movement of the Easter marches arose.
In the 50s and 60s, the impulses from the Anglo-American region were important for the development of the theory and practice of pacifism in Germany. The most varied of non-violent forms of action (strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, sit in, blockades, etc.) were taken up, less by the pacifists themselves than by the student revolt of the late 1960s.

The understanding of politics

The prevailing German understanding of pacifism remained: At the beginning of the 1980s, Die Zeit asked (January 16, 1981): "Pacifism, a new swear word?" Shortly before, Federal Defense Minister Hans Apel (SPD) had expressed "concern about the increase in pacifist sentiments" in the population. There was no further explanation; It was only an attack against the anti-rearmament movement and in order to save the honor of pacifism it was argued against Minister Apel at the time that a pacifist is someone who loves peace and "whom the Basic Law expressly means and respects, if it is in Article 4 paragraph 3 his right to refuse to work with the weapon is guaranteed. " A pacifist is (only !?) someone who rejects war for religious and ethical reasons (based on: "Der DUDEN", ​​1986). After the Second World War, the FRG granted the possibility in its Basic Law to refuse "military service with a weapon". And Heinrich Böll later wrote that he hoped that "our defense minister" was also a pacifist. ... "The Basic Law obliges him to ..." (Die Zeit 19.6.81)
The prevailing political understanding of the term pacifism in Germany becomes clear here. Even after the Second World War to the present, nothing changed in this restricted view and the reduction of the term to the bourgeois-liberal political tradition.

Political pacifism

With the term "political pacifism", the German Peace Society-United War Service Opponents (DFG-VK) tried to participate in traditional political discourse since the early 1970s and made a contribution to radical thinking based on the hope for a "peaceful state" and a "good one." Domination ". Under the term political pacifism there were coalitions between bourgeois-liberal, social democratic and communist currents (based on "real existing socialism (GDR)" in pacifism. Participation in realpolitik was decisive for action "Peace Councils" of the "socialist countries".

Libertarian pacifism

Those pacifists who, on the other hand, were prepared to dissolve the axioms of "state" and "rule" in a political-critical way, organized around the magazine "Graswurzelrevolution" since the beginning of the 1970s. The political tactics with the goal of a "better German" were not decisive here State ", but the creation of a non-violent, domineering society. In the GDR, the natural allies were the human rights and ecology groups and the conscientious objectors who could organize themselves in the" free spaces "of the church.
In the grassroots movement, however, the term pacifism was (is) avoided or rarely used to determine political position. Terms such as anti-militarism, conscientious objection, grass-roots revolution, nonviolent action, and others are used. This pacifism is ecologically and anti-militarist oriented, anti-racist and anti-sexist, critical of the state, non-violent and transnational and can also be described as anarchist pacifism or anarcho-pacifism.
In the IDK self-image declaration there are many similarities to positions of the grassroots movement, here too the term anti-militarism and not the term pacifism is used. IDK work focuses at the moment: anti-conscription work, advice, publication activities, international activities.

Wolfram Beyer

This article first appeared in the "Lexikon der Anarchy" (Ed. H. J. Degen) and has been revised for the IDK homepage.